Welcome to the McKenzie Milton Era

By HarryPNolan
Sep. 22, 2016

?There are moments when a player makes his presence felt. Has his introduction to the game of college football. Some players shine while others fall under pressure. UCF quarterback McKenzie Milton made his debut against Maryland in Saturday and oh boy did he deliver. Milton's final stat line after the doubt overtime heartbreaking loss to Maryland was 21-36 for 260 yards 2 touchdowns and 1 interception. He finished with a quarterback rating of 131.8. Yes, he did have several fumbles and a bad interception, but you know what he's the most exciting quarterback that UCF has seen since Blake Bortles. Consider this he's 18 years old, has only been on campus since July and already has more yards this season than Justin Holman or Nick Patti. Some will say that "oh Justin Holman should have started and UCF would have beaten Maryland.", those people are idiots(hi Bianchi). Milton is the future and that future is oh so special.

All week leading into the Maryland game there was a question about who was going to be the starting quarterback for UCF. There was talk that if he was healthy that the unimpressive Justin Holman would be UCF's starter. That was worrisome since Holman was awful against Michigan. There was also rumors that Nick Patti would be the starter. Again that would not have been an upgrade over Holman. Patti and Holman had showed they were not going to be successful in this offense. Then UCF players started to come out and talk about how McKenzie Milton was making plays like Johny Football. Scott Frost even came out in his weekly press conference  and talked about how Milton had the "It" factor. That was effusive praise coming from a coach of Frost's reputation. It was clear that everyone on the team thought that Milton was the future of the program. 

So here he was the Prince that was Promised. The guy that now carried the hope of every single person associated with UCF on his shoulders. An 18 year old who had traveled thousands of miles away from home to follow Scott Frost to Orlando and had only enrolled in July. He had the weight of a program on his shoulders. Not only that, but he also carried Scott Frost's reputation. If Milton was not the player that he was hyped to be, then the fickle UCF fandom would start to question Frost's ability to evaluate quarterbacks. So Milton not only had the pressure of beating Maryland, but all of these outside factors as well.

With all of this pressure and the fact that he was playing against a very good Maryland defense, a normal quarterback would have folded. Hell Holman and Patti would have, but Milton shined. The offense seemed to be much more free flowing under Milton. There was never a sense of woe when the UCF offense came on. Instead watching Milton became appointment viewing. Feast or famine, you knew that Milton would do something exciting. In the first half, Miltoncould have buckled after fumbling the hand off after moving the ball to Maryland territory on the first drive. Instead Milton and the offense got back on the same page. Milton was able to move the ball and frustrate the Maryland defense as the Knights outgained Maryland in the first quarter 137-27 and took a 7-0 lead. Yes the second quarter was less impressive and filled with mistakes but we can chalk that up to freshman nerves.

It was the second half and overtime where Milton showed how special he can be. McKenzie Milton made plays that I could not fathom. On a 3rd and 14 deep in their own territory Milton realized that the Maryland defense was thinking pass and playing as such, well he took advantage and used his speed to gain 17 yards. Unlike his predecessors who would have just thrown the ball to a covered reliever and prayed for the best or taken a sack, Milton ran and was rewarded. There were a few cases, especially in the second half, where Milton would roll out on broken plays which would cause the defense to pursue and leave a receiver open. That's what he gives you that Holman and Patti don't, a true dual threat quarterback that causes defenses to play back on their heels not knowing exactly what the quarterback is going to do. 

Want more proof? Fine. Look at the 71 yard pass to Jordan Akins. The defense knows that UCF is probably going to pass, but also has a spy in case Milton runs. Milton, because of the system has several options short pass, run, or pass to Akins. Milton chooses the correct option and throws a dart to Akins which leads UCF into Maryland's redzone. We are talking about decisions by a freshman that that not even the seniors can or did make. That is how far advanced Mckenzie is. Let's talk about the fumble in the red zone. Strangely the fumble, which was the fifth of the night, was also one of the smartest plays that Milton made. There is the old axiom in football to fall on the football when it is on the ground. That is the play that most football players make. Yet when Milton fumbled the ball, he picked it up and ran with it, which actually caught the Maryland defense off guard. That allows him to stroll into the end zone and give UCF a 14-10 lead late in the fourth quarter. That play was the embodiment of what Frost called "turning Lemons into Lemonade." An ability that Holman and Patti have yet to show.

Now let us talk about the pass Milton made in overtime. UCF needed to convert the 3rd and 14th in overtime. If not the game would end with a dud. Yet with the offensive line beaten on a blitz, Milton made a play to scramble and by time for Tre'Quan Smith to get open. Not every qb has the advantage of scrambling around to stalk for a receiver to get open. Here is the amazing thing about that pass, besides having two defenders right in his face, Milton had such a narrow window to put the ball to Tre'Quan. Milton had the touch to be able to throw a dime into the hands of UCF's best receiver. Oh and let us not forget that Maryland's best cornerback Will Likely was draped all over Smith. Yet Milton had the ability and guts to throw the ball into a spot where only Tre'Quan could catch the ball. Milton made the type of pass that UCF fans have been begging for from their quarterbacks.

Of course not all of it was good. The fumbles and the bad interception were less than impressive. That has to get corrected. But here is the thing about Milton: he has already shown that he is a better fit for UCF than Holman or Patti. You have idiots(hi dungeon posters and Mike Bianchi), that say that if UCF had started Holman then UCF would have beaten Maryland. To those people I ask, do you know what Holman's record  is against the Power 5 teams he has played against? How about winless. Justin Holman is 0-5 against teams from the Big Ten, SEC, ACC, and PAC 12. Outside of a good half against Penn State, Holman's numbers against P5 teams are less than impressive. His rating averages out to be in the 20s. Let us not forget that according to  offensive FEI, after 2 games with Holman as a starter in 2016, UCF ranked 114. After the Maryland game with Milton UCF sat at 81 and climbing. So again I say what gives you any indication that Holman would have led UCF to victory? Milton already matched if not surpassed what Holman has done against Power 5 teams. 
No this is about the future. This is what Scott Frost has wanted ever since he came to UCF. A quarterback that has the ability to run Frost's offense and improvise when need be. Holman and Patti showed they can not do this. Milton can. You see McKenzie Milton is going to be special. He already showed flashes of brilliance against Maryland. Experience and time will only make him better. This is McKenzie Milton's program now. I for one am so damn pumped for what this special young man has in store.